View Full Version : Photo Realist Art, Is This the Hard Way of Doing Things?

Stephen Lo Piano
09-05-2006, 04:50 PM
I tend to like art history and have taken a college course in such as a fine arts elective for my Accounting major. In the past you notice that artists strived for the pursuit of excellence in attempting to create paintings that looked exactly like something in reality, whether this be a portrait, landscape, or still life painting. Historically what other method did they have of archiving the appearance of something? Fine arts in painting that approached photo realism was the only means to preserve some memory of the past. Looking today in magazines like American Artist you notice many professional artists continue to strive to produce photo realistic paintings. Is this really a good idea in the current times, or is this simply doing things the hard way? We have technology today where cameras and computers can produce images in photo realistic quality within minutes. With digital art, it is very easy to download camera photos, or scan pictures, and then take them to a graphic arts program for cloning, and even special effects where at the click of a couple menu options you can make a photo look like it was done as a painting by a fine artist. With this in mind there is suspicion layed forward to the authenticity of any digital artwork claimed to be done from scratch. It is probably a good idea to create a few pieces in the traditional manner of the pursuit of excellence by pursuing photo realism in fine arts painting.
It is a good way of displaying skills and ability to paint, yet is it really necessary and a good idea for your overall goal? Since the invention of photography you notice in history of art books that many artists have moved away from this form and technique of application. Impressionism was the first grass roots movement away from photo realism, and since then works like Pollock have taken art into new directions. I find with digital artwork that photo realistic painting seems to be the hard way of doing things since computer graphic arts phtotography can easily create this in minutes. Artists today are better off exploring these new means of creating artwork, such as digital graphic programs and special effects ideas like Kai's tools. Instead of finding a technique and practicing the mastering of it's use (as in the days of natural media), I find myself approaching computer graphic arts in a scientific type of experimentation frame of mind. Creating objects and images that look nothing like photo realism with digital art is the way to create something new and different.
With this in mind there is no question of authenticity or doing things the hard way. This new technology is young and has much potential to start significant change in the direction of artistic trends and new inventions. Any comments to add here to my thoughts?

09-05-2006, 08:33 PM
There will always be a market for realistic or photorealistic art. Especially in the commercial field.

If you are a commercial artist I would recommend you get really good at adopting other styles or develop a very unique one. If you are good enough you shouldn't find it too difficult to make a living doing either one.

Now, if you are a fine artist - I wouldn't say that you need to be able to do photorealism. There are an audience for your work if its unique, well made, communicates and looks good even if the viewer doesn't 'get it'. It's not about the tools, but about what you create. This goes for the digital artist too.

Just don't kid yourself that the galleries will jump all over your kai's power tool filters in joy... So, yeah - it's abit about the tools also afterall...

D Akey
09-05-2006, 09:51 PM
I agree with PVIllustration on the whole. Value is in what people are willing to pay. So, if the images are as common as tupperware, then they're likely to be worth less. I'm sure you've seen movies that had big budgets but sucked. Movies that looked beautiful but sucked. So what makes for value?

Believe me, it's not all in the technique. And even less now that anybody with an interest in doing so can generate a decent image in the computer.

Where is the value? Why is a knock off from China less valuable than an original Picasso? They probably look the same.

You're sorta asking about the psychology of a market/audience. Why would somebody buy a picture?

The gazillion dollar question is 'Are people who buy art more conservative or non-conformist?' (rhetorical question here. The answer is different styes suit different people for different reasons.)

Photorealism has an audience among people who value the subject matter over the art. Also among people who are valuing art by what they understand and can judge to be accomplished.

Would a photo real image of wilted lettuce sell? Probably not. Would a photo real painting of a million dollar car sell? Probably. If you can answer why, you are on your way.

But would painting sell over a good photo of the same subject? Who knows. There are certain things that cannot be found in the real world to photograph though, and realistic artists can do quite well in those areas.

Photo realism is great as an assist for people's fantasies or visualizing something as well. Somebody who is into old tri-masted schooners my pay well to add to their collection a good rendering of that ship type in foul weather. And if it has accuracy to the detail, then they have another selling point. But you had better also be good at painting water and skies convincingly because that is staging.

How far can an artist get away from the subject in order to focus on the art as an end in itself? Art has to usually be pleasing and/or be financially valuable for people to be interested in it.

And art hung on a wall at someone's home reflects who they are. And if it's common or bad art, they are going ot be judged by it -- much like wearing a crummy suit.

Certain art movements have set a standard for certain subjects - like Degas and ballerinas. So if you were to do a sketchy pastel painting of some ballerinas stretching, you will likely have an audience because it fits their idea of what it should look like. It hits the right mood.

Self-styled intellectuals and outsiders tend toward less representational art because of the cache it gives them in their respective circles. Makes them feel elite and rarified.

There is no absolute answer, and there are plenty of shades of gray.

Art -- it's your voice. What you say and how you say it is up to you.

PS. If you want to see how people are valuing art, look at the galleries and see what paintings are going for. Chuck Close, one of the first photo-realists, who did storefront windows and glass and chrome and all that, as an end in itself, I personally think his time came and went. It wasn't all that deep in interest to begin with. But he got famous at that time.

He would not become famous now.

09-10-2006, 11:33 PM
About art dealers/gallery owners,Art critics. Art is a commodity and as such there is a business built up based on the pursuit of money.
I have always had a problem dealing with this aspect of art. It seems it has always been around.
I think art styles have certianly been influenced by this hidden factor.
What's popular now won't be, and will probably be "discovered" again in ten years. Not by artists but by dealers, owners,Art critics.

D Akey
09-13-2006, 08:01 AM
Too true, Ingie.

Value is manipulated by people who stand to profit by the value going up. It's like commodities, as you say. Buy low, sell high. And if people who trade in art can convince others that the artist whose work they're holding is a good, sound investment, then they've done their job.

In the pursuit of such things, a year or two ago there was an article in the paper about another curator in the big museum out here resigning because somebody was going to donate part of their art collection.

It had a decent Giacometti as the 'carrot'. There were a few peices in descending order of value, and some inferior work by a relatively unknown artist.

The donors insisted that ALL the works were featured in the museum. That was the provision, which the curators refused to do.

But the donor kept applying pressure behind the scenes to where they were forced to display all the work. So another in a long line of curators resigned.

So what's the big deal? The big deal was that the donor had a huge supply of that minor artist's work that they were keeping as they manipulated the prices. And the profit they would realize from his work getting displayed as a permanent artwork in this big museum (huge credibility and value jump) would be vast.

There is the other question about why the museum caved, when the museum's trust fund gave them millions each year to spend on anything, and they could get really good aquisitions with it. So they didn't need this donation.

Now let's count the artist styles in the preceeding story.

09-13-2006, 09:17 AM
How do I get on the list of minor artists to be displayed?
Not really.......
I find that the ability to post electronic images to be a fantastic boon to artists. I have gone the route of the "art world" and found it only enhanced my anti-social behaviors. Note the s on the end of behavior. Schmoozing and partying is not where I want to be, it's the process of creating for me.
This forum is one example of a virtual museum or art shop. This is one of the friendlyist around. Just walk in and browse make comments feel good
and pick up some pointers or a new direction.
(I don't have to rely on selling my art to buy groceries or prescription drugs)

Stephen Lo Piano
09-13-2006, 09:53 AM
Ingie, I agree with you 100%.
This is one of the most friendly forums for the art community and anyone else interested. Great people here.

10-11-2006, 04:12 AM
some artists in the photo realism genre who still address it are not just trying to show off technical mastery... some even paint in the lens glare and "snapshot" cropping so severe they even chop off a head and their artistic "comment" is aimed at just what the new tecnologies in photography and digital manipulation as it has impacted how we see the world. photography, motion pictures, television, and now the pc monitor are our windows to the world and our sense of reality.. the old canvas painters in our our art history books were no less illusionists in that they presented 3 dimensional "reality" on a 2 dimensional canvas or paper or fresco. that is perceived as magic but we know that, for instance, perspective (producing the illusion of depth) is a studied technical tool, to achieve that illusion, television is seurats pointillism engineered for our time. little , separate, unique, points of pure color that blend and merge in our eyes and mind to form the illusion of "reality". the difference between a motion picture and a comic strip is the movie is projected at 16 frames a second.

10-11-2006, 05:14 AM

Hi. I read this thread and unfortunately my english is not so perfect to understand everything clear so i wrote my opinion of this art-history conversation. I think that when humankind start to learn draw something, i mean gaveimages on the rock etc, it is because of practical needs. Need to inform something other human or need to make track to naturemap. We are one part of this story and todays technology gives us many paths to go but still all styles, hand-paper, using computer, camera, video, etc. are still all same level of that need-layer. My thouhgt is that our needs are not change very much of those gave-paint times. Of cource economical issues, because money is todays one part of trade-mechanism, is changes those times. Also perhaps is come the free-time for us. We have more free time to draw than living needs need. One issue is also that we live today whole earth-ball atmosphere, we can send images through computer-network on time. That is biggest thing human history. Before this centuryes this kind on possibility we dont have been. I have paint few oil-paint on canvas and and this year use this artrage-program. There is big different of those two method, paint and how use paintings. This program allow to use all electronic possibilityes, can take photo, use tracing, can use layers, and still paint-process is fun. It is like paint oil-canvas without oil perfume. Also i like to do slide-shows, because it gives possibility to connect two separate image to flow so that between transition is together two different image, it give many new ideas. Technical possibilityes is one part, but, i think that still basic needs, want to tell something, is behind of all images. But, i think also that one mind cannot see so deep always of it's own images so this make this interesting. Sometimes i ask my self, what is this what i draw. I dont know. Need to do something. Be part to be on this history. Or try to open own mind. Hmm. Sorry my english, hope that something clear comes out.

Stephen, i travell on you web-pages and i found nice nature image. Lovely paint. Fine work i think. I put the addres here, hope it is ok.



10-11-2006, 07:09 AM
We have technology today where cameras and computers can produce images in photo realistic quality within minutes. With digital art, it is very easy to download camera photos, or scan pictures, and then take them to a graphic arts program for cloning, and even special effects where at the click of a couple menu options you can make a photo look like it was done as a painting by a fine artist. With this in mind there is suspicion layed forward to the authenticity of any digital artwork claimed to be done from scratch.

Stephen, your argument here is often stated but still quite interesting for people to consider. I have another wrinkle to add to your debate about photorealism.

I also enjoy working in the field I like to call "computational photography." That is, it is within the realm of photography but aided and extended by computational means. One popular form in this media, if I can call it a media, is that of the "stitched" panorama. Here is an example of my craft:


There's a "full view" link and I recommend clicking it if you're not using a tin-can for a modem.

Let's talk about technology for just a moment. The image above, even in "full view" form, is much reduced from an original which is over 50 Megapixels. Since almost all digital cameras are unable to produce 50 Megapixel images, it is clear that this is actually a combination of more than one image. In this case, I took 32 photographs and combined them into this composition as if shot with a peculiar cylindrical lens using a bit of mathematical trickery. The shadows on the buildings are seemingly defined by an edge of a cloud, but in reality the cloud moved much too quickly for me to grab the whole set of images in time to capture that fleeting moment. So I took 16 shots during a sunlit period, and another 16 shots during a cloudy period, and used parts of each image.

Let's now skip the technology. Let's address the image from an artistic direction. Let's talk about the reasons for the composition, and the impact created. I was describing how the clouds raced through my composition, and how I wanted to capture the "defining moment". With both sunny and shady alternatives, I could choose what buildings were lit and how much. I chose a moment where the clouds would accentuate the depth, and would highlight my desired center of interest. I could have used the clouds to accentuate the boats but I reinforced my hedges and trees and rails and architecture lines with the added edge of shadow. Dozens of other minor choices were in my mind as I chose from different ways to attack this project from a technical and artistic standpoint.

Now, as the project is finished, I have to face up to the fact that:

(1) most observers would not know, or WANT to know, the technical details

(2) the composition and choices I made would have to please the viewer in the first two seconds, no matter HOW hard I worked to achieve the result

I just wanted to throw out the notion that just because it's digital or technically achieved, doesn't mean it's easy. And I fully agree with the notion that just because it's hard, doesn't make it look good. I don't think the actual paint or pen or camera or computer or fakery or reality really matters all that much to the expression of "truth" or "beauty" in a piece of art.

Stephen Lo Piano
10-13-2006, 01:24 PM
Your Wintergarden Patio creation certainly does have a unique character and appeal. Very nice and professional in appearance.

I have tried combining segments with Adobe PhotoShop Elements 2, merge feature. I have scanned drawings created in natural media onto computer where the size of the drawing far exceeds the area for scanning, therefore I have had to scan in sections and then merge.

Getting back to the subject here, I would personally prefer to create still life, and photorealistic paintings in natural media, with paint and canvas.
Computer digital art has some great new areas to explore with special effects filters and other techniques for applications. I like the idea of exploring this new uncharted territory, compositions I could only dream about creating with natural media.

11-22-2006, 04:22 PM
wow, for twenty bucks i am getting a great art program and an education, more please!!! my 2 cents worth, andy worhol (not sure of the spelling), saw a few earlier things he did (probably on a tv biography) and i liked them, the photo-copies of Jackie and Marilyn 16 square, soup cans etc.,, i hate to admit, i just don't get,don't like, don't understand,wouldn't have one if you gave it to me free, think they are cop outs,and think he sold out,now, cave paintings,was just thinking about the same today, think they are amazing,and todays art is same Stuff, different day, art separates us from the monkeys, blows evolution away, the artists are everywhere, not just on canvas, from the sole design on you shoe to the label on bathroom T.P. that's art appreciation!!!,,,,check out the emtocons to the left, let's see a monkey come up with that !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!